The 2012 Richmond Kickers Colonial Cup marked the last time Nick’s Kickers Central Fulham team will play together. Their tournament performance (1-1-2) included some solid play against some good teams, and the players stayed focused. And then, it was over.
The tournament was over. The season was over. The team, together for three years — Nick was with them for two years — is disbanding.
It’s common for players at this age, with boys on the cusp of high school. Tryouts shuffle kids onto different teams. Some players decide to forgo club soccer and anticipate playing only for their high schools. Other kids drop back to rec soccer or decide not to play soccer during the busy high school years, choosing to focus their most serious efforts on baseball, band or biology.
Nick will play for a different Kickers team this fall, still competing in Virginia Soccer League but moving up a couple divisions. He took Memorial Day off, but he’s been at the soccer field each day since, knowing he’s got to work hard this summer with a goal of earning his playing time this fall.
Lurking in the back of our minds is spring 2013. His Kickers team will play a couple of spring tournaments but won’t have a spring season next year, under the assumption that the club players at this age will play for their community’s high school. Of course, as a homeschooler, Nick is excluded from trying out for the public team that practices about five miles away from us. (We were actually featured in TIME Magazine about the homeschool sports access issue back in April.) Richmond Kickers offers a year-round Academy that bucks that trend, but it is several rungs above Nick’s current level of play.
He works out every day for now, knowing that some pick-up games, some training, and some camps will help fill in to provide the intensity and competition he craves before regular practice starts in August. But he already wonders how he will keep working to improve during next spring, when he will face the longest period he’s ever had without practicing with and playing regularly for a team – up to five months.
We’ll keep looking for a solution to next spring’s hiatus as long as he’s pushing for more soccer (his soccer objectives are up to him), but for now, as they say, it’s “play on,” though it will be with a new team and a new coach.
And so the huddle before the game turns out to be the last one. The arms and legs and hearts and voices reach for one another a last time, under the hands of a coach poised in benediction, who understands better than his “lads” what they have learned from the beautiful game.
The coach’s parting words are perfect, asking more of Nick while expressing faith in him:
“Work hard, Nick. I know you will.”